Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Two New Jobs for Assistance Dogs

I was watching a documentary on T.V. the other day and the topic was about dogs, assistance dogs in particular. In one case dogs were trained to help children with learning disabilities and reading disorders to learn and enjoy reading. It was amazing. First the children were introduced to their new teacher-friend, then the dog would sit next to the child and listen while the child read, if the child had trouble with a word or grew tired of reading the dog would put its paw on the page or start to pull the book with its mouth very gently - this made the child tune in and continue or ask for help. I don’t know how they got the dogs to realise when the child had stopped and that it should help out but it has turned out to be a very successful program and the children couldn’t wait to get to reading class and to please their new teacher-friend.

The other story was about dogs with very strong mothering instincts and how they became mother and teacher to abandoned wild animals. The dogs cleaned, played with and taught the newborns like lions and panthers to live and grow into adults. Of course they could never be released into the wild again but they would have died if not for these wonderful working dogs. I then realised that I had had two such dogs myself. Many years ago, I found a puppy that was abandoned in our driveway and soon after found in the rubbish a box with two baby bunnies and two black kittens, all still with their eyes shut. I took them home and tried to bottle feed them but very soon the puppy started to sleep with them and stimulate them while they nursed the whole time leaving the puppy with scratches and bite marks but she never left their side and would carry them around the house. After about two weeks she had milk and was able to take over the feeding job as well. Thank you Foxy!

For twenty years now a small dog named Freetxua has lived with us. She was given to my son when he was about one and she was just a couple of weeks old. She has mothered and nurtured everything from one-day-old chicks to lambs and wild boar. She is so maternal that she will take care of any creature from the time it is born until adulthood. She is still going strong and remains an important part of our family, animal and people alike. This is a picture of Freetxua with Lucia. Lucia was bottle-fed and now is about 80 kilos and comes everywhere with us. She still plays with Freetxua. The name Freetxua comes from “free to a good home” and we just dropped the “good home” bit (although it is) and call her Freetxua.